As the 16-year-old young man rode in the car with his father, his father asked him, “Why not you?”
They were talking about professional football and the list of Hall of Fame Quarterbacks. The father was Harrison Wilson. He had played both baseball and football at Dartmouth and tried out for the San Diego Chargers when he was 26. After not being offered a position, he went to law school and became a lawyer.
The young man in the car was named Russell. He also played both sports at his Richmond, Virginia, high school. However, he was not tall—only 5’11”. His coaches and other players told him that he should play baseball because he was too short to be a quarterback in college or the NFL. At that time, the majority of QBs were 6’2” or taller, the belief being that it was necessary to see over the linemen.
Russell’s father had told him many times as he was growing up “Why not you? The only thing keeping you from achieving your dreams is yourself.”
He conveyed to his son three important principles, the three Ps: perseverance, perspective and purpose. Russell says they have been the handrails of his life, keeping him in the center.
Russell was recruited by North Carolina State University and, like his father, continued to play both baseball and football. Russell was very close to his father, who constantly encouraged him to do his very best and prepare constantly. He graduated college in three years and set his sights on a major league team.
June 8, 2010, was the biggest day in young Russell’s life up to that point. He was drafted in the fourth round by the Colorado Rockies to be a major league shortstop and pitcher. The dream of a professional sports position, which he and his father had worked toward for so many years, had come true.
The next day, June 9, his father died from complications of diabetes. Russell said, “I’m at the biggest high in my life . . . and the next day he’s gone.” The impact was profound, but Russell knew he had to fulfill the goals that he and his father had worked so hard for.
He played the summer of 2010 for farm teams in Pasco, Washington, and Asheville, North Carolina, but knew his real goal was to be an NFL quarterback. Despite many people telling him that he was too short, he went to the University of Wisconsin for his last year of eligibility as a starting quarterback.
Learning God’s Word will give you the perspective to understand the great questions of life. Gaining that perspective means knowing what’s really important.
Critics are everywhere in sports. Anytime naysayers would print or say something negative about him, Russell would type it up and tape it above his computer screen. He said it gave him motivation to prove the critics wrong.
Wilson set the NCAA record for passing efficiency at Wisconsin, leading his team to the Rose Bowl and a Big Ten Championship. He entered the NFL draft and was drafted in the third round by the Seattle Seahawks. Russell said he was going to make all the other teams pay for passing him over, and he set out to do just that.
After arriving in Seattle, Wilson impressed the team with his work ethic, control and poise on the field. In a move that surprised everyone, he was named starting QB by coach Pete Carroll. In his rookie year, 2012, he set an NFL rookie record of consecutive completions and tied the long-held record for touchdowns.
On his weekly day off, Tuesday, Russell discovered his favorite place in Seattle—Seattle Children’s Hospital, world renowned for treating children with cancer and other terrible diseases. Russell walked the halls and rooms, talking with the children, signing footballs for them and telling them about his father. He still goes to Seattle Children’s often, but his visits with the kids rarely make the news anymore. One of the greatest football players alive goes from room to room encouraging these children facing formidable challenges to be their best, no matter what.
During his second year playing with the Seahawks, Russell led his team to the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl of 2014 became the most watched television event in history up to that point. At barely 25 years old, Russell had already broken many records for a quarterback playing his first two years in the NFL. He was going to face Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. The sports pundits all predicted that Seattle did not have a chance—then came the kickoff.
Sports fans remember a one-sided game that is one of the most memorable of all Super Bowls. Surprisingly, it was the Denver team that never had a chance. Led by Russell, they became the youngest team ever to win a Lombardi Trophy, and won by an incredible 35 points. In his eight-year career in the NFL, Wilson has been named to seven Pro Bowls. He has started in two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl 48. His team has made the playoffs in every year but one. He holds the record for most wins by an NFL quarterback through seven seasons (75) and is one of two quarterbacks in NFL history with a career passer rating over 100. On April 15, 2019, Wilson signed a four-year, $140 million contract extension with the Seahawks, and became the highest paid player in the NFL, until Patrick Mahomes in 2020.
How did Russell Wilson accomplish so much? He followed the principles his father taught him: perseverance, perspective and purpose. These are also key biblical principles that our heavenly Father taught us.
Perseverance is virtually the same as determination in meaning. Russell’s father taught him to keep working hard for the goal no matter what. Russell Wilson studies and does his homework. He always prepares and then prepares again. Even today he works out with a challenging physical schedule but always finds time to serve in his community and visit the kids in the hospital.
Daniel 12:10 tells us that in the end time “many will be purified and made white.” How? By changing their lives, repenting of sins and learning to live by God’s laws. Part of this experience will include persevering, or overcoming every trial and challenge along the way, enduring to the end. Those who do are promised a new immortal life at the coming resurrection.
Perhaps the most noted aspect of Russell’s character is his control of his emotions and spirit. He knows what is worth getting upset about and what isn’t. This skill comes from having perspective. Sportscasters often comment on how cool Russell is under pressure. Even other players, such as his former teammate Richard Sherman, said they have tried but cannot get him riled up or upset.
Learning God’s Word will give you the perspective to understand the great questions of life—such as why you were born, who God is, how to live and where we are now in the panorama of world events and prophecy. Gaining that perspective means knowing what’s really important.
Lastly, Russell had a purpose. He knew what he was working toward and didn’t let himself get distracted. And while the goal of being an NFL quarterback is good, it is only a temporary reward. You have been offered something far better—the invitation to be part of God’s Kingdom forever—the only truly permanent thing.
So, why not you?
Daniel 12 tells us that in the end time, just before Jesus Christ returns to rule the earth, there will be a group of people called “the wise.” How will they be different from the rest of the world? They will understand world events during the time of great turmoil and human suffering coming on the world. They will understand their calling, their purpose in life and the wonderful future that is coming.
How do you get this understanding? By studying and applying God’s Word. You have your Bible and 24 hours in every day. The choice is yours how you spend it.
Think about this event that will take place in the future, possibly the near future:
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall ever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).”
No experience in this life can possibly compare to being in the first resurrection and rising in the air to meet Jesus Christ when He returns. You have been invited—specifically called—to be in that resurrection.
Revelation 20:6 tells us, “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection . . . They will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with Him a thousand years.” God’s family will be there. You are invited to be there. So . . . why not you?